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Student Testimonials

To my mind the unique part of the program was the amount of responsibility Woj gave us. As she often says, she censors the paper only for libel and incitement to riot. I felt like the decisions I made were important and that they affected other people, so I worked hard and thought about things in a way I wasn't accustomed to doing. By that I mean I approached decisions with attention to their long-term and difficult-to-anticipate consequences. We, the editors, realized that our choices could potentially set precedents for the years to follow.

It was just as important, though, that Woj allowed us to make poor decisions. She made sure we had thought things through, and if we were determined to walk the plank she didn't stop us. We learned to deal with the effects of colossal blunders. Woj encouraged new ideas, and she never shook her head (publicly) over the ones that didn't pan out.

Perhaps the best indication of the program's impact on me is that I think of my current job as an attempt to relive my Campanile experience. I still love that kind of informal work environment, coupled with long hours and dedicated co-workers. I like worrying about the small stuff (page format, editorial rules) and I like dealing with the big "the fate of the book is in your hands" type things. Campanile undoubtedly gave me some confidence, but I think the its work ethic and atmosphere have had the greatest effect on me since I left."

The journalism program, beyond helping me learn how to quickly pump out 600 densely packed words, taught me how to work with people and take responsibility for editorial decisions. More specifically, the freedom and leadership I was granted helped me learn how to respect everyone's opinions, control my temper and put personal politics aside in favor of journalistic integrity. I have become a more reasonable person to work with because of The Campanile experience. Having more freedom means having more responsibility. The work we produced reflected our decisions and collective efforts rather than decisions made completely by a teacher. That is why we always took pride in The Campanile, and tried our best, together, to make the best newspaper we could. It wasn't just a class anymore -- it was a commitment.

To me, the most important/valuable aspects of the Campanile program were the experience of working closely with a team of editors and also the experience of basically complete autonomy/student control of the newspaper. That is, the fact that we (the editors) essentially ran the class, from structuring class time to making editorial decisions to running production week to giving input on evaluation of other students, proved invaluable to me as an experience in developing leadership skills and also in feeling like I was really helping to CREATE the newspaper instead of just doing what a teacher told me to do or what had been done before in previous years. Owning the experience of being editor in chief is what made me care so deeply about Campanile and want to put in endless hours of work to make it the best possible newspaper. As for the teamwork aspect, I really enjoyed feeling like I was part of a team of editors that had to work together and make collective editorial decisions and be responsible for the paper. I think we learned over the course of the year to balance each other out in terms of strengths and weaknesses, which means we also became more keenly aware of what our own strengths and weaknesses were.

Woj, in shaping my Campanile experience... as an advisor, you gave us the illusion of having total control over everything that happened with the paper, an experience so rare at the high school level that it made us all highly committed to the paper, but in retrospect you did a lot of organizational work that made the program possible in the first place. And while you weren't overly involved in the hour-to-hour production process, for real dilemmas you always had a word of useful advice to guide us.

I think the essence of what is good about the program is that the adviser is just that -- someone to advise the staff and to help with knowledge they don't have yet. The adult in charge isn't making questionable ethical judgments and in general running the program in accordance with their ideas and tastes only -- the adult merely guides the students and gives them the tools to succeed. This latitude is what is so attractive to the students and what makes them so devoted to the program.

Before my time at the Campanile I never really had a passion in school. My classes were OK and I new I enjoyed the social anything specific that I loved to do. Writing for the Campanile, I discovered that I really enjoy journalism. What really made my experience at the Campanile extraordinary was the freedom we all had to shape the paper. Woj gave us an incredible foundation with her beginning journalism class and she also helped guide us, but ultimately decisions regarding the paper were left to us. I think this hands-off approach more than anything was what made the paper great. The students who worked on the Campanile knew that it was theirs and not filtered through a teacher or administrator.

Mrs. Wojcicki is undoubtedly the most innovative and thoughtful teacher I have ever had, as well as the best educator I am likely to have in the future. My feelings are not unique; every student who is lucky enough to be taught by Mrs. Wojcicki loves her. We love her because she makes us love learning, inspires us to work harder than we could ever imagine, truly loves her students and teaching, and, lastly, because her creativity has led to immense improvements in educational programs at Palo Alto High School.

Truth be told, Mrs. Wojcicki (her students have fondly nicknamed her "Woj") is the reason that I still attend Palo Alto High School. In the fall of my sophomore year, I was troubled by the lack of intellectual stimulus in my classrooms, which were often cramped with uninterested students. Consequently, I applied to numerous prep schools on the east coast and was accepted. My ultimate decision to stay home reflected the change in my educational experience at my high school due to my encounters with Mrs. Wojcicki. Her teaching style and self-made journalism program motivated me to immerse myself more proactively in my education. I knew that if I were to stay, I would have the opportunity to work with Mrs. Wojcicki for two more years, and I could not pass up this chance. The paper is now a forum for me to discuss ideas with my classmates and to better understand my beliefs through these discussions.

Every third week, the fifty juniors and seniors on the staff of our award-winning periodical, The Campanile, stay after school until 9 or 10 p.m. on some nights to finish producing the newspaper. Mrs. Wojcicki is always there, whether encouraging us to work harder or giving us her opinion on a journalistic ethical issue.

However, Mrs. Wojcicki's most telling attribute may not be her presence; rather, it may be her ability to change from director to spectator. Mrs. Wojcicki taught us everything we know about journalism, from graphical design to formal writing. By trusting us to make our own decisions about the future of the paper and by giving us the independence most teachers fear (the editors lead class every day and correct all the articles ourselves), she is in fact trusting her own teaching abilities. I am primarily indebted to Mrs. Wojcicki for teaching me everything I know about journalism and secondly for giving me the confidence to effectively use the journalistic talents that she has taught me.

Not only has Mrs. Wojcicki changed my life, but also she has improved hundreds of student's lives throughout her successful career at Palo Alto High School. For example, my sister, a former Editor-in-Chief of The Campanile under Mrs. Wojcicki's advising and a graduate of the Harvard class of 2000, still returns to her old high school to converse with and receive advice from Mrs. Wojcicki, as do countless other former students.

In addition, Mrs. Wojcicki's creativity has greatly enhanced the journalism programs at Palo Alto High School. Since her arrival on our campus years ago, Mrs. Wojcicki has started an award-winning student magazine, has dramatically improved the breadth of focus and the writing quality in our newspaper, and has at least tripled the size of the journalism programs at Palo Alto High. Currently, her innovativeness has found her working to publish a student newspaper online. She will undoubtedly use the grant money to effectively improve the school and, consequently, her students' education.

I never want to leave my journalism class at the end of the day. For this reason, my fellow editors and I often stay a few hours after school with Mrs. Wojcicki to discuss the journalism class, editorials, and other articles. I cannot imagine my life without the paper and Mrs. Wojcicki, as is true with many of my peers. I am forever grateful for that inkling I had sophomore year that told me I would be missing out if I decided to attend school on the east coast.

I have been a student of Esther Wojcicki's for going on three years now, and I would have to say that she is the most down-to-earth teacher I have ever had. Wojcicki knows what she's teaching and she gets it across to the students. I have gone to her for advise fairly often and she has always had the answers to my questions, especially if my questions regard an article, the newspaper or the journalism field in general. With her beginning journalism program, I was introduced to writing for a newspaper and it has been my passion ever since. Wojcicki kept the class motivated and kept it moving so that we now produce a paper that has received numerous awards as well as the All-American status. But Wojcicki was the uniting factor among all of us and she kept the paper going no matter what.

Everything in Wojcicki's class revolves around journalism. When a major event comes up, Wojcicki always thinks about keeping the public informed and makes sure that the important issues are covered. Because of Wojcicki, our newspaper has been graced with new computers and technology. Without Wojcicki, we would not have a class that produces such a professional paper and our school would not be at all as informed about local issues as it is.

Without Wojcicki, our school would not have a magazine or a broadcast journalism class. She worked with students and the school to create these classes from only grants and self-produced money. Wojcicki cares about the journalism department and will do anything to make it better and keep it running.

Currently, Wojcicki is helping students and the school create a web journalism class that will hopefully be available for next fall. This year is the testing phase when Wojcicki will raise money to get the program started and plan out the way it will be run. With addition of this class, there will be four ways for students, staff and the community to hear about the happenings at and around our school. It also gives students four different choices when it comes to applying the techniques learned in beginning journalism.

With so many journalism programs started practically single-handedly by Wojcicki, anyone can tell that she will continue to give so much to our school and our community.

I am a current Editor-in-Chief of The Campanile and have worked closely with Mrs. Wojcicki – or Woj, as we call her – since I joined the staff last year. I have learned a lot from Woj in the time that I have been under her guidance. She knows exactly what we should publish, how the community will react to our stories, and how to deal with other members on the staff. Not only has she taught us a lot about journalism, but she has also taught us a great deal about leadership.

I think the best part of having Woj as an advisor is that she gives us just the right amount of freedom. She allows us to run the paper almost entirely on our own, but gives us her input when she knows we need it. This creates a learning environment in which we are able to learn from our mistakes, but are prevented from making drastic errors. This is much more effective than if someone were to tell us ahead of time exactly what we should or should not do. Also, it is much more fun for us because we do not have an advisor that is too overbearing and authoritative.

This system works only because Woj designed it in such a way that it was sure to be successful. We learned how to run the paper by observing the previous editors, they learned from their predecessors, and so on. Woj plays an active role in preventing each year's editors from making mistakes that previous editors have made. Since we learned by watching our predecessors, we indirectly learned from Woj, as well.

Under Woj, The Campanile has, year after year, been able to maintain its high level of quality as a result of her unique approach to running the paper. Giving us the freedom we need to grow and learn has been instrumental in making our journalism program as successful and enriching as it is today.

© 2002 - Esther Wojcicki - Email: thewoj@hotmail.com